Former Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R-MN) may not register high in the polls yet, but his credible resume and long preparation for a presidential run has helped attract a highly experienced staff, several of whom have defected from 2008 contenders who are expected to run again in 2012.
At the top of the pyramid is Vin Weber, a former Minnesota congressman and top advisor to former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) in the last presidential election. Weber has been taking digs at his old boss in the press lately, telling reporters that Romney’s healthcare record in Massachusetts will be tough to overcome. Weber co-chairs Pawlenty’s Freedom First PAC with William Strong, a Morgan Stanley banker who chaired Sen. John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign in Illinois.
Weber isn’t the only Romney veteran who has changed sides. Phil Musser was executive director of the Republican Governors Association under then-Gov. Romney’s leadership then went on to advise Romney’s 2008 campaign. Now Musser is a senior advisor to Pawlenty’s PAC. The pattern may not be a coincidence — Politico reported in 2009 that Pawlenty was cold-calling Romney-connected consultants to casually solicit their advice.
Pawlenty’s low national profile makes the early primary state contests especially important for him, and conservative activists say he has been blitzing Iowa with staff on the ground. One of his PAC’s top advisors is Terry Nelson, an Iowa native who worked as political director for George W. Bush’s 2004 re-election campaign and on McCain’s 2008 run beforeresigning at a low point in the primary campaign. Pawlenty has also recently poached a coveted and highly experienced member of Mike Huckabee’s 2008 team: Eric Woolson, who headed up Huckabee’s Iowa effort and helped produce one of the biggest upsets of the primaries.
In addition to Nelson, a number of Pawlenty’s top political aides occupied high-profile roles in the 2004 Bush campaign. Longtime TPM readers will be familiar with Sara Taylor (now Sara Taylor Fagen) a top aide to Karl Rove until her resignation in 2007 in connection with the U.S. Attorney scandal. Taylor famously testified to the Senate that she took an oath to President Bush only to be reminded by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) that her oath was to the Constitution. Another Bush veteran, Karen Sifka, directed the 2004 re-election’s grassroots efforts in the Midwest, emphasising once again the importance of Iowa to Pawlenty.
Pawlenty will also have an experienced hand overseeing the money end of the campaign, which will be critical to gaining him early credibility, having snagged McCain’s deputy finance director from his presidential run, Brian Haley, in 2009. Former RNC press secretary Alex Conant is at the helm of Pawlenty’s communications shop.
NOW WATCH: Briefing videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.